Top 10 Purchases that Defined 2020

All year I have completed hundreds of 10 Good Things Lists. At the conclusion of 2020, I’m writing a series of blog posts on some of the best things that got me through this year. This list is dedicated to the top ten items I would say made the biggest impact on me during 2020.

Top 10 Books of 2020 here

Top 10 Helpful Discoveries of 2020 here

Top 10 Things I’ve Watched in 2020 here

Using this as an exercise to do an internal audit of what purchases impacted us the most this year was clarifying. Would love to hear your own process of sifting through all of the new things you brought into your home/life this year and how they made your life better.

In no particular order of significance, let’s dive in…

Kitchen Category

Lodge Dutch Oven

Last year when I asked for a Dutch oven for Christmas I had no idea that it would become an honorary family member. Not only did we I prepare about 98% of the food my family would eat in 2020, I soon learned that this was the piece of kitchen equipment I never knew how much I needed.

Our last few homes have been on base military housing and we have literally no extra room in cabinets and on counters to accumulate a bunch of junk. I’ve avoided an air fryer and a Instant Pot but the Dutch Oven has warmed it’s way into my heart forever. I use it in all seasons for all types of food. I literally haven’t had to find a permanent storage spot because I keep it out on the stove top due to literally constant use.

Soups, stews, roasts, fried rice, veggies to saute’ YOU NAME IT and this pot makes it better. (Don’t tell my Crock-Pot, but I could *almost* replace it entirely with how useful my Dutch oven is!)

Berkey Water Filtering System

I’ve heard about the wonders of a Berkey for years from faithful devotees, but couldn’t really justify the price or the counter space. All that changed when we could no longer procure bottled or gallon jugs of drinking water during the early days of the pandemic.

We never drank the tap water at Fort Polk due to color, smell, and safety concerns, but opted to just (environmentally-wastefully) buy water gallons and individual bottles each week. We finally pulled the trigger and added the Royal Berkey to our family. My biggest regret is that we didn’t do this so much sooner.

You should read more about the awesomeness of what all a Berkey can do if you have any survivalist or doomsday tendencies.

We LOVE this thing and usually need to refill it every night. By the time five of us fill a water bottle or two per day, drink water from cups and glasses at meal times, it’s empty. I think we could have easily sized up, but once kids start leaving home, maybe we could size down. For now, this size seems to work for us.

Keurig

I know I’ve mentioned the absolute preciousness of kitchen real estate and I’ve now listed the third of three large items we have sitting out. However, this little Keurig has brought us hours of joy and hundreds of delightful cups of coffee. We still use our stove-top percolator for our main, morning coffee.

The Keurig was a new addition once we arrived at Fort Campbell and realized we’d have a small area for a drink station.

Our drink station is one of my favorite (and most used) areas of our house here. Under the counter is a small shelf where our kids keep their lunchboxes, laptops, and all of their phones/chargers plugged up. Above we have constant and pretty instant access to tea, coffee, and other hot drinks. Not only do we utilize this as a family, it is “always ready” for unexpected company. Living on a military installation there’s always someone stopping by. I love being able to offer a drink to a friend or neighbor at a moment’s notice.

Getting Older Category

Heating Pad

I have been telling myself all year that I am coping really well with this pandemic and a major life transition of a cross-country move. In the words of Bessel Van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score. Here at the end of the year, my long-time back injury has flared up.

The last time it was this bad was in 2017 (when my 40th birthday and two PCS moves in one year collided). I truly never know what exactly causes the flare up but I think it has been a combination of stress, sleeping on a soft mattress when we went to The Cove, skipping my 10K steps a day during that week, sitting so much there and the long car ride to and from–things in my lower back and hamstrings just got tight. That matched with my own innate UPtightness, seems to have created the perfect storm for my disc issue.

This heating pad has been a life saver. It is so comforting and really has helped in getting my back to a place of better mobility and less pain. Other family members have enjoyed the heating pad too and we are now on the lookout for other gadgets that can keep us warm.

Kork-Ease Leather Casper Booties

Speaking of finding comfort for our aging bodies, my favorite clothing/accessory purchase for myself this year is definitely these black boots. I try to add one new pair of shoes to my collection each season. Over the past four or five years, I’ve opted for the mantra of “fewer but better” when it comes to closet additions.

Over that same amount of time I have also been living by the mantra of “only comfortable shoes allowed.” While I’m not ready to go full on S-A-S mode, I am grateful to have added Kork-Ease to my list of limited brand favorites like Dansko, Seychelles, Vivonic, Birkenstocks, and Sofft. I literally have no shame in this. We gotta take care of our feet and backs.

Home + Hospitality Category

Laundry Valet

This may seem like a questionable choice to make the list, but for me it has been a life-giving addition to our home. I am fully aware that most people HATE laundry. I actually find a lot of comfort and joy in the rhythm of caring for my clothing items well.

As previously mentioned, our last three homes have been tight on square footage and while we have had dedicated laundry spaces, we have NOT had hanging space to let clothes air dry… a practice I prefer for my workout clothes, intimate items, denim, and most shirts.

Here in Clarksville, we have a store called Dirt Cheap that sells Target overstocks, returns, or damaged-out boxes. I found my laundry valet there, new in a box, Project 62 brand for $2.50! Not only is it perfect for air drying laundry, it also serves as a nice area for overnight guests to place their hang-ups or an overnight bag. Best of all it collapses and can be stored away when not in use.

Balloon Garland Kit

Also in the Home and Hospitality category is this Target Spritz Balloon Kit! I think I paid about $4 for it and included in it was 21 balloons, string, and seven small plastic discs that hold the filled balloons. It made such a visual impact for our W.A.C.K. end of the year ceremony, I realized I could reuse the string and discs indefinitely.

In a year when celebrations at restaurants or other typical establishments weren’t really an option, being able to make multiple balloon banners was a dream.

Having a big space full of colorful balloons is a wonderfully visual way to say Happy Birthday or Congratulations, as was the case for all three kids’ birthdays and for a wedding shower I hosted this fall.

I think I spent a total of about $10 for the initial kit and several packs of Dollar Tree latex balloons. At times this year, it didn’t feel like we had a lot to look forward to, so when we could celebrate–we went big with balloons. (Don’t sleep on the Balloon Pump to save your lungs, cheeks, an lips!)

Makes Life Easier and Quit Growing Up So Fast Category

Thomas’s First Car

Of all of the purchases we made this year, a vehicle is BY FAR the most expensive. This felt significant for a variety of reasons.

Number one, it’s an outward, tangible sign that our boy is in fact growing up and transitioning quickly toward adulthood. Lots of major responsibility on him to care for and operate a motorized vehicle. Lots of prayer and trust on our part that he will remain safe and steward his responsibility with wisdom.

Second, the addition of a third vehicle/third driver is incredibly convenient. Thomas drives himself and Mae to school, goes to pick up takeout when we ask him to, drives himself to go get his own haircuts, and takes the girls to both Sunday chapel youth group as well as a Wednesday night off post church youth group. Having teenage drivers is both amazing and terrifying.

Finally, this felt big to us as a significant step in our debt free journey. Just six or seven years ago we had been in a life-long cycle of financing cars with hefty monthly payments. We were able to save up and pay cash for Thomas’s car and plan to do so for the girls as well.

For those curious, he also contributed. We covered about 85% of the cost of the car and he covered about 15% from his own savings. We are covering his monthly insurance (note to parents of soon-to-be-drivers–your insurance will LITERALY DOUBLE–be ready!) and any routine maintenance the vehicle needs like tires and oil changes.

Thomas covers his fuel and we have asked that he keep a fairly decent reserve in his own short-term savings for any costs associated with driving mishaps like traffic citations or deductibles for damage that is his fault. I know every parent has their own justification for how they divvy up driving/car costs and I’m always curious about how others come to their systems.

Vanity Category

Color Me Beautiful Color Wheel

I mentioned this above about my boots, but over the years I have tried to be much more mindful about the quantity and quality of clothing items I bring into the house. When you move often and are constantly decluttering/minimizing/having to move the entire contents of your home, it causes you to be motived to shop smarter.

This year, for me that included going down a rabbit hole into a previously popular concept called Color Me Beautiful. The idea is that depending on your hair, eye, and skin tones each person falls into one of four “seasons,” that determine which colors make you look and feel more vibrant.

It turns out that I am a Summer. I ordered the corresponding Color Wheel and now when I buy clothing (especially items that will be worn near my face, blushes, and lip colors) I buy the colors on that wheel. I’ve begun doing this for Mae and Kate too. You know you’re wearing “your colors” when people say, oh that shirt makes your skin glow, or that top just really accentuates your eye color, or you look rested/happy/bright/alive. This practice has been the anecdote to an entire wardrobe of mostly black shirts.

You can take a quiz online and figure out your colors. Even without buying a Color Wheel you can go through your closet and pull out your colors. I dare you to go a week or two only wearing your colors and see who notices. And even if no one else does, you will know and feel instantly rejuvenated.

Selfie Stick/Tripod

If there’s one item that really saved the day this year, it has to be our selfie stick/ tripod/wireless remote combo. Starting in late March the world collectively began “pivoting,” when Covid shut down our country and many other parts of the world.

Primarily, many of our chapel initiatives were suddenly up for a transition. We, like many others began to live stream church services and make previously in-person activities “virtual.” (Any one else tired of using the word virtual?)

Ryan began recording sermon series ahead of time to be able to jazz them up in iMovie with graphics, music, and transitions. These would go live as “Watch Parties” on Facebook since the chapel didn’t have reliable internet.

We used our tripod and remote to attempt Easter-at-home family photos. I would record class sessions for my FPU group, used Zoom to host a homeschool humanities weekly lesson, our children’s church team recorded a Resurrection Eggs series, and I recorded and had a “If you are on the fence about homeschooling with the start and state of school up in the air” video go kind of viral.

It seems that no matter the message… one of Hope, Faith, finances, education, or just family updates…we all relied very heavily on technology during “these unprecedented times.” Our little tripod setup, our computers, and our iPhones were the real MVPs.

Thanks for reading along here. Did you have any favorites that you relied upon to get you through or make your 2020 easier or more enjoyable?

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